August 3, 2023

Federal grants support pipeline safety efforts in New Mexico


Natural Gas pipeline going through New Mexico.

New Mexico will receive $1.1 million in federal funding for pipeline safety.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is a part of $64.4 million of funding the agency has made available nationwide to help states ensure underground pipelines and natural gas storage operations are safely operating.

“These grants are critical to help states with the funding they need to carry out inspections and enforce pipeline safety regulations that keep our nation’s pipeline network as safe as possible,” PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown said in a press release. “These grants ensure our state partners can continue to play an integral role in getting to our goal of zero safety and environmental incidents.”

In New Mexico, the Pipeline Safety Bureau is a division of the Public Regulation Commission, which is best known for regulating utilities.

The bureau has seven full time inspectors, a supervisor and a bureau chief. Patrick Rordriguez, spokesperson for the PRC, said the supervisor and bureau chief are also certified inspectors.

If inspectors discover something that is concerning, they issue a notice of probable violation. Rodriguez said these enforcement actions are usually related to failing to have sufficient written procedures for operation and maintenance, not having the records, not meeting specific time intervals for leak surveys or patrols or operators not having the proper qualifications. 

He said the federal funding will help the Pipeline Safety Bureau offset its budget. 

In that way, the money could have an impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from leaking pipelines. 

Rodriguez explained that operators are required to perform periodic surveys looking for leaks and, if they find a leak,, they must then take steps to address it.

Because the funding will help the Pipeline Safety Bureau in its overall mission of ensuring compliance with both state and federal regulations, Rodriguez said it could also contribute to leak prevention.

“State pipeline inspectors oversee more than 80 percent of our nation’s 3.4-million-mile pipeline system, and we want to ensure they have the resources they need to carry out their vital work,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “These grants will be another important tool for ensuring America’s pipelines are the safest and most reliable in the world.”